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The Jim Knapp Orchestra: It’s Not Business, It’s Personal (album review by Christa V.)

The Jim Knapp Orchestra is a 13 piece big band led by the trumpeter and composer Jim Knapp. The group primarily plays his original compositions, with no shortage of gusto! The tightness of the ensemble is incredible, you can tell that this is a group of musicians who have been playing together for a while and have experience. Additionally the solos are beautiful and really let the individual musicians shine. Of particular note is the trumpet solo during “Gray Skies” which is carried out with masterful precision and musicality. Overall though, it’s the compositions themselves that shine through here, the pieces seem to be crafted for this particular group of people and you can tell in the way they come together and are performed. Favorite tracks: 3, 5, 8

Gus Dapperton @ Governors Ball (festival review by Laura T.)

My second day at Governor’s Ball in NYC started with indie artist Gus Dapperton. Performing in his home state, he walked out with his band with a shallow hollow body electric. Immediately phones popped up through the crowd. I was surprised how many phones were recording for such an early set, perhaps alluding to his massive internet success found in Prune You Talk Funny. His guitarist pointed at a spot in the crowd where people were dancing and smiled as they started their set with Bluebird, a waltz with a surf-y guitar and synths. 

 

Even though the crowd was mostly stagnant, with some slight sways or head bobs, the stage was dancing and animated. His keyboardist danced and swayed the whole set, while Dapperton had a host of different dance steps he rotated through. He two-stepped, sashayed, and fake stumbled his way through the set. The crowd was almost sedated, with calm faces and smiles across the whole crowd. Dapperton played his breakthrough hit, Prune You Talk Funny, fourth in the set. I hadn’t heard the song in a while, even though it was a song I often listened to in high school. This live performance included an absolutely rediculous dum break down which amped up the crowd significantly. 

 

It was then that I had realized that the calm feeling that washed the crowd was nostalgia for the bedroom pop era of our lives, high school for me, but for the surprisingly young crowd of Gov Ball it could have been middle school or even younger. The song was followed by My Favorite Fish, a ballad with a huge build up, and Palms. Palms was introduced with a metronome that sped up until it hit the tempo of the song–-commanding my piquing heart beat and interest– -matching the build of the previoous song. 

 

Dapperton finished his set, but then quickly came back for a two song encore. Finishing with two songs off of his most recent album Orca, as graphics matching the album art flashed on the screen and in front of the keyboardist while they performed the hit Post Humourous and the crowd broke into contained, small, dances. All in all, a solid performance from an artist who was able to take me back in musical-taste-time while still keeping me engaged with newer music.

 

Review and Photo by Laura T.

Joji @ Governors Ball (festival review by Ciaran C.)

Throughout our Saturday Governors Ball coverage, it was clear to both Laura and me that Joji’s performance was a highly anticipated one: from our interviewed attendees saying that they were most excited to see his set to the groups of media personnel planning to cover it, the signs for that traditional, cramped shoulder-to-shoulder festival set that we briefly lost to COVID were all there. Even an hour before his set, as big names like Roddy Rich and Denzel Curry performed, the crowd forming in the pit was comparable to the peaks of smaller performances from earlier. People crammed in to get the best spots while it was still possible. Seemingly anticipating that this crowd would bring problems, security staff indiscriminately threw packets of emergency water into the crowd, striking those in the pit (myself included) every other minute. The incessant pelting of emergency water packets eventually gave way to the crowd’s screams as Joji came on stage after a few minutes’ delay.

Accompanied by hazy retro visuals and guitar backings that often drowned his voice out, this set was heavily defined by an air of melancholy and sadness that often defines his discography. Split between songs from Nectar and Ballads 1, he maintained a very minimal stage presence, occasionally interjecting between songs to express his love for New York, and, more commonly, throwing miniature bags of chips into the crowd, claiming that “sharing is caring”. It seemed incredibly strange to me that a man known for a brash and eccentric YouTube personality only a few years earlier could make the transition into such a reserved performer. This lack of stage presence didn’t seem to affect the crowd at all, though: they weren’t there for theatrics, but rather, to experience the music. Occasionally, I caught glimpses of people with tears welling up in their eyes or small groups of people swaying together: these groups reminded me of how difficult it is to truly review a performance, as it is impossible for one to experience it through the perspectives of everyone in attendance.

As the sun began to sink below the stage and the crowd became wearier, the encore began: a slow acoustic rendition of Slow Dancing In The Dark preluded an abrupt fake-out transition into the regular version of this song, sending fans into hysterics as they pumped the last bits of their energy into singing along to the chorus (even I put out a word or two). Then, just as abruptly as it had begun, the encore ended, with Joji taking a short moment to appreciate the crowd before retiring backstage. Overall, I would say I enjoyed this performance, as despite not knowing much of Joji’s discography, I was truly captivated by how he managed to enthrall the audience with so little engagement, and I was astonished to see how deeply his music affected those around me.

review and photo by ciaran c.

 

Tove Lo @ Governors Ball (festival review by Ciaran C.)

It’s no secret that if you grew up as a gay teenager in the early/mid-2010s, Tove Lo is a household name. From her mainstream radio success with Habits (Stay High) to her dive out of despair with Disco Tits, we can seemingly track every moment of our teenage years to a point in Tove Lo’s musical career.

 

Her Governors Ball set last Saturday was a well welcomed and incredibly cherished addition to this collection of moments: strutting onto the stage in a star-emblazoned leather ensemble, her hour-long performance was a fluid one featuring slinky movements and lots of gyrations. The crowd swayed along and cheered with her, throwing up beach balls and peace signs into the sweltering sky above Governors Ball’s main NYC Stage. Accompanying her hypnotizing movements was an array of swirling and trippy visuals, with deep landscapes of purple and pink overlaying clips from previous music videos and slowly traversing the stage. Her set encompassed seemingly every point of her career, from the beginnings nearly a decade ago to recent unreleased hits. However, there were some moments that truly stood out: Disco Tits saw Tove Lo accompanied by a sea of screaming fans and boob visuals as she paced around the stage in a sultry way. As I swayed around with the crowd, I felt oddly as if I had reached some full circle: I felt as if I was in the middle of some Tumblr edit that may have crossed my young-teenage dashboard. Taking the cake, though, was her Talking Body performance: in the middle of the second chorus, she fiddles with her ornate leather top and flashes the crowd for the entire second chorus, sending the crowd into screams and cheers. Overall, her stage presence was incredibly captivating, and only intensified the energy that oozed from her songs. With a potential upcoming album teased, I (and the early gay teenager inside me) will be waiting eagerly to see if she graces Detroit with her leathery, provocative, and exciting stage presence.

 

Review by Ciarán C., Photo by Laura T.

Diesel (Shaquille O'Neal) @ Governors Ball (festival review by Laura T.)

When I heard that Shaquille O’Neal would be playing Governors Ball under the DJ name Diesel, I thought it was an absurd joke. While Shaq really did play Governors Ball Saturday, the absurdity stayed with me through his entire set. I had found myself right by the barricade to the stage, surrounded by teenage boys waving Heat, Pistons, and Lakers jerseys around. The crowd was so energized, cheering and chanting for Shaq’s crew as they set up a dj table made for a giant. When Shaq finally did walk on stage, the crowd erupted. 

 

The set that followed would be exactly what you expect from Shaquille O'Neil. Full of loud bass and smoke machines, Shaq played hits such as Mo Bamba and Nonstop, to a song from the Zelda soundtrack and I Write Sins Not Tragedies. He switched relatively quickly between each song, almost as to not allow for the crowd to get bored. Each track switch was like whiplash, often switching tempos significantly and always swapping genres and mood. While the setlist was chaotic, it was clear the Shaq took his DJing incrediblt seriously, and entertained the crowd incredibly well. From Shaq himself, he would alternate between yelling “Where’s my mosh pit?” and phrases like “let’s go New York!” every minute or so. He would often invite people on stage, and had the vip festival goers join him on stage, cowering in the corner and videotaping him silently. Of the people he invited onstage, one man got behind the dj booth and was barely to be seen above the table, putting into perspective the behemoth who was dropping tracks in front of me. 

 

The crowd was the rowdiest I had seen that day, with everyone headbanging and moshing. I lost my lens cap several times in the mosh before I had to surrender and retreat from the chaos. He had attracted the ravers, the high school boys, and the occasional middle aged adult. Most were just there to see Shaq in real life, as one girl asked me, “is he just going to play other people’s songs?” The overall tone of the set was definitely swayed by this sentiment, as many were watching in disbelief of the set in front of them. Despite that, Diesel's performance held its own, and didn't need his impressive legacy to bolster it, even though that definitely helped bring in the crowds. This set was certainly unforgettable and I was impressed by Shaq’s dedication to DJing as an already world-class athelte.

 

Review and Photo by Laura T.

Peach Tree Rascals @ Governors Ball (Festival Review by Ciarán C.)

As the bass shakes the stage and the crowd begins to cheer, the San Jose-based musical collective Peach Tree Rascals ran onto the stage. With their groovy West Coast feel and playful energy, Peach Tree Rascals’ performance at Governors Ball had the crowd laughing, cheering, and swaying to their set with a certain teenage zest for life. In between songs, the band would stop and engage in banter with the crowd: singer-rappers Tarrek and Isaac captivated the audience, both with laughter (such as asking for the crowd to repeatedly shout “Hey M.F hey!”) and with heartwarming moments, such as when they recounted the musical collective’s history, which spanned from a shoddily-made garage shed to the GoPuff stage.

Throughout the set, I was captivated by how the group balanced the crowd with their songs: despite being on such a massive stage, the sounds were incredibly comfortable, feeling like an intimate and close house show thrown by your closest friends. Moreover, the cartoon visuals that accompanied their performance were incredibly nostalgia-inducing and felt very Scooby-Doo-esque (perhaps because of the lighthearted and fun nature of their stage presence): if you’d told me that Peach Tree Rascals were cast to soundtrack a 2022 interpretation of Scooby-Doo, I'd immediately believe you.

Towards the end of their set, and much to the delight of the audience, they teased their upcoming single Let U Go, performing it live for the second time. Perhaps it was the summer air or the spirit of everyone around me, but I felt that this was an upcoming anthem for the summer. Before I even knew it, their set was coming to an end: they finished seemingly abruptly, walking off the stage. Yet, only seconds later, they ran back on with that same playful nature and closed with their breakout hit Mariposa, sending the crowd into singing-along and dancing. From start to finish, their playful energy and joie de vivre didn’t fault for a single moment, with Mariposa serving as the exciting culmination for this incredibly relaxed and joyful set.

Peach Tree Rascal's new single is released June 24.

Review by Ciaràn C., Photo by Laura T.

Aly and AJ @ Governors Ball (Festival Review by Ciaran C.)

With the 2022 Governors Ball celebrating an overall spirit of change – with its relocation to Citi Field and return to its original date for the first time in two years – Aly and AJ’s set perfectly embodied this by taking a significant departure from their norms. From their outfits to their setlist, their performance was heavily reminiscent of the hippie era and its famous Summer of Love: balancing comedically large glasses of Aperol Spritzes between acoustic and electric guitars, they mainly performed songs from their 2021 album a touch of the beat gets you up on your feet gets you out and then into the sun. Paying homage to the sounds of early ‘70s soft rock (such as Fleetwood Mac and Neil Young), a touch of the beat toed the line between contemporary indie and vintage rock, with Aly and AJ’s stories of personal vulnerability and journeys of self-discovery seeping through their background band’s melange of synth sounds and electric guitar riffs.

If the lyrics couldn’t hint you to the noticeable changes for Aly and AJ’s musical and personal lives, then their attitude on set definitely did: they seemed far more comfortable and authentic, being more open with the crowd and allowing themselves to experiment in real-time. Especially at the end of a 10-year hiatus and a subsequent tour for a touch of the beat, their presence reflected significant maturity and growth, both in their sounds and their stage presence. No longer are they under the tight grip that holds all Disney child star musicians, instead, they are free to reinvent themselves and their sounds. Indeed, this set embodied change.

Though I found myself greatly appreciative of this, I don’t know if the entire crowd did as well: the audience seemed to know Aly and AJ as the early-2000s Girl Duo of their childhood. I frequently saw audience members confusedly bobbing around to the music, descending into quick murmurs after the start of every song. Between these murmurs, I realized that it seemed that much of the crowd wanted to hear a live rendition of Potential Breakup Song, their 2007 hit that recently rose to become a viral TikTok song. As their set went further on, more and more people left as they realized that this Aly and AJ wasn’t the one they knew: by the encore, it was incredibly obvious that they weren’t going to play Potential Breakup Song, triggering a semi-exodus of the crowd from the pit. People seemed disappointed, with a few people remarking that they’d wasted their time. This crowd reaction and their desire for older sounds contrasted strangely with Aly and AJ’s desire to reinvent themselves, which left a peculiar damper on the overall experience of this otherwise revolutionary set for the duo.

Review by Ciaran C., Photo by Laura T.

Scott Hamilton and Duke Robillard: Swingin’ Again (album review by Christa V.)

Hamilton and Robillard had worked together before, on the 1987 album Swing which was a combination of jazz and jump blues. Here they recreate that same magic, the connection and dynamics between Hamilton and Robillard’s playing is for sure a highlight of the album. With Robillard on guitar and Hamilton on tenor saxophone, plus a collection of other friends including the rest of a rhythm section and some vocalists, this group is hard to beat! Most of the songs have a very New Orleans jazz feel to them that make you want to dance while appreciating the accuracy of the playing as well. The opening number, “I Never Knew,” showcases the ensemble really well, and contains a number of killer solos. That continues into “I’m Putting All My Eggs in One Basket,” which adds a vocalist to the mix and demonstrates that even the ensemble’s backing licks are tight. This track also has some of the clearest New Orleans style jazz influences. Definitely not an album to overlook, it’ll leave you impressed and dancing! Favorite tracks: 1, 2, 7

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